Sunday, January 6, 2013

Vegas observations

I'm just back from Vegas, baby! and have a few observations to share:

  • They didn't give daddy the Rainman suite, but they treated me well. Stayed at the Venetian, which is a hard act to beat and maybe the best option in town for a family such as us.
  • Vegas has got to be the people watching capital of the world. Perhaps someday (hopefully) a cross section of the world will in fact be as wealthy and glamorous as the Vegas Strip population appears, but it will perhaps (unfortunately) also be just as shallow.
  • Speaking of watching the shallow-minded people, it is fun to hear how confident foolish people can be. Craps and Blackjack are the penultimate examples of this. This observation deserves its own breakdown:
    • It is amazing how many people have a long history of "always paying for their trips with their (Craps, Blackjack, et al.) winnings". I don't see how those casinos can afford to keep the lights on. Perhaps we should take up a collection.
    • The ability to add quickly does not make you "good at math". Knowledge of mathematical principals, ability to see things in algorithmic terms, and appreciation for underlying systems like probability are qualities of good mathematical minds. They don't give out many Fields Medals for counting. To conflate that you can add up an Ace, Seven, Queen, and Four quickly or pay out at 6:5 odds on $15 bet with $75 backing it up in a swift motion with being "good at math" is like saying spelling bee performance is highly correlated with great writing in literature.
    • The human mind is ridiculously susceptible to the lure of superstition. 
  • How much can you really make in tips standing on the Strip in a creepy, B-level children's entertainment character costume? Apparently enough as compared to about 20 people's next best option.
  • The variety of hotel casinos reminds me that it takes all kinds. I hear you say, "Is that what it takes? I always wondered what it took." But it is as true here as ever. A Las Vegas central planner would probably be a lot like Steve Wynn. His design would be remarkable, beautiful, distinctive, and exclusive while also being unappealing and unavailable to most. His monopoly status would promise unprofitability if without subsidy. Or the planner would be like the group that runs Caesars Entertainment Corporation (the owners of Caesar's, Harrah's, and a host of additional properties that appeal to a group much less sophisticated than the Encore set). The place would be tacky without perspective and a "big-box" version of a gaming destination. The monopoly status would again promise unprofitability if without subsidy. Fortunately, we have a mostly free-market approach, which allows for some, really a lot, of both styles with many degrees in between, above, and below. It is just important to realize that the right side of the distribution (almost no matter what distribution we consider: quality, variety, quantity, price, etc.) necessitates a left side. 
  • I'm glad I saw this excellent piece in the New Yorker after my trip. I would have been even more paranoid about street crime. Watch the video as well. (hat tip: Kottke)
PS. Don't be misled by my hypothetical on a Las Vegas central planner. I very much admire the entertainment products of both Steve Wynn and the Caesars group. 

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